The Big Three have once again given us quality events in their closing concerts. I will review initially the Mozarteum Argentino, who brought us to end their year at the Colón an important chamber orchestra for the first time in Argentina: Les Musiciens du Louvre – Grenoble , led by their founder, Marc Minkowski. As implied by their name, this organism (born in 1982) was during the early years Parisian, but since 1996 they have moved to Grenoble due to attractive sponsorship from the city and the region. Although their chief repertoire is the Baroque (I met them in 1994 in Paris with Handel’s “Theodora”) they brought to BA a Mozart programme in celebration of the bicentenary of his birth , a fitting close to the season of an institution bearing the composer’s name.
The concept was historicist and influenced by Harnoncourt: no vibrato, strong dynamic contrasts, fast tempi, dramatic accents. Hardly restful Mozart, but convincing in its own terms. It needs strong control from the conductor, and Minkowski showed himself a musician of strength and sinew, attacks and releases done with instantaneous response. Mozart’s two greatest symphonies, Nos. 40 and 41, were preceded by the final ballet from “Idomeneo”, music of substance and character. The 51-member Orchestra proved itself truly virtuoso in all departments. I hugely enjoyed the similarly strong encores by Joseph Haydn: the 2nd movement of Symphony No.101 (the one that gives the work its name, “The Clock”) and the funny Finale to No. 97, both done with powerful statements and the offbeat humor of Haydn’s late music.
The Orchestra della Toscana has been here before. It is in fact a chamber orchestra, only 47-strong, at least for this tour. Their playing is honest and committed, in a good technical level. The venue was the Coliseo and the conductor, the temperamental Gabriele Ferro. He is currently more an opera than a concert conductor, and he holds the important post of Musical Director at the Naples San Carlo Opera House. Sanguine, intense and rather exaggerated, he is a well-grounded musician. It was curious to see him combined with the very clean and rather cold pianist Roberto Cominati in the Ravel Concerto, very decently done by all concerned but with some conciliation between cool and hot. I didn’t care much for a world premiere, Giorgio Battistelli’s “Apres Josquin”, yet another postmodernist lucubration on an old-time composer. In the Second Part we were in safe ground with Prokofiev’s short and lovely “Classic” Symphony, a bit slow for me, and the suite from De Falla’s “El Amor brujo” minus the vocal parts in a pleasant traversal, lacking some Andalusian mystery. To my mind the best thing was the encore, an exhilarating view of Rossini’s Overture to “L’Italiana in Algeri”. A good “finale” to the meritorious Nuova Harmonia season.
In this last part of the year the most active institution has been Festivales Musicales. Just a few days before the Colón’s closure they feted their 30th anniversary with a fine concert conducted by Festivales’ Artistic Director, Mario Videla. With the admirable collaboration of the Camerata Bariloche and of the Orfeón de Buenos Aires (Néstor Andrenacci and Pablo Piccinni) we were given a Baroque combination of three greats: Johann Sebastian Bach’s Suite No. 3, Vivaldi’s Gloria RV 589 and Handel’s “Foundling Hospital Anthem”. The first two are of course acknowledged and famous masterpieces; the third is a find, grade-A Handel : seven pieces for vocal soloists, chorus and orchestra, where the last is the reemployed “Hallelujah” from “Messiah”. Lovely solos and splendid choruses in this 1742 score, a most welcome culmination to Festivales’ 2006 season. And a good moment to take stock and thank them heartily for so many wonderful experiences throughout these three decades.
Videla’s views on the works were sound and orthodox, generally satifying. Of his Baroque erudition, naturally, there has been no doubt for decades. Of the soloists I found Graciela Oddone in pretty good form, Susanna Moncayo rather uneven, and Carlos Ullán correct. There was a non-subscription event from Festivales which proved to be quite interesting. I have known and liked Salieri’s “Les Danaides” for years, as I have the splendid Gelmetti/Stuttgart CDs of the complete opera. It was certainly a brilliant idea to offer this work here, for BA knows nothing at all about Salieri’s operatic contributions. It’s worth mentioning that La Scala was reinaugurated some months ago with the very work of its original inauguration in the late 18th century: Salieri’s “L’Europa riconosciuta”; and this composer among his many operas has a “Falstaff”. The terrible Greek story of the 50 daughters of Danaus compelled by their father to kill their husbands certainly makes for a strong Classic tragedy, and it comes as no surprise that at the time the score was supposed to be written by Gluck.
It was a pity that there were heavy cuts in the version led by Marcelo Birman with the Compañía de las Luces (some fine things were gone) but as presented the work was gripping and showed that Salieri could be intense, as well as a fine artisan. With strong singing from Sergio Carlevaris and stylish contributions by Ana Moraitis and Pablo Pollitzer, the 25-piece historicist orchestra played quite well and the chorus sang with total commitment. Birman gets better each year and so do his ensembles. The appropriate venue was the Museo de Arte Decorativo. Para el Buenos Aires Herald, 01/12/06